Game 44: TB vs. NYY — 11th inning let-down

Masahiro Tanaka had a great outing this afternoon in the second game of this weekend series against the visiting Rays. He threw 88 pitches through 6 scoreless innings, giving up just 3 hits and striking out 6 batters. He took a nasty grounder off his shin in the 5th, managed to finish the inning, but then came out of the game. Later x-rays came back negative, but he’ll have a nasty bruise on his shin.

The Yankees struck first in the 3rd inning. With 1 out, they loaded up the bases with singles by Brett Gardner and LeMahieu and a walk to Voit. After another strikeout, a messy wild pitch moved up the runners, and Gardner raced home to score the Yankees’ lone run this afternoon.

In the 7th, Tommy Kahnle came on in relief for Tanaka. He promptly gave up a lead-off solo home run to tie up the game but held off the Rays from doing further damage. Britton and Chapman each followed suit, breezing through with a scoreless inning of their own.

And so the game went on into extra innings. Holder continued the pattern through the 10th with a quick 11-pitch scoreless inning. But Luis Cessa had some trouble in the 11th. With 1 out, a solo home run put the Rays in the lead. And the Yankees couldn’t put together the rally for the bottom of the inning, thus falling to the visitors today.

Final score: 2-1 Rays, in 11 innings

Injury updates: James Paxton threw a bullpen session before Friday’s game and will throw again on Sunday. He still felt some pain due to his knee injury (from May 4), but it’s improved and hoping to diminish as he continues his rehab.

Didi Gregorius will start his extended Spring Training on Monday. After his Tommy John surgery last October, the shortstop will spend time working on simulated games and exercises similar real Spring Training, but compacted down from the standard 7 weeks. This is a really good sign that Gregorius could be back on the team well before the All-Star Break.

And Giancarlo Stanton took live at-bats this week. It looks like his biceps and shoulder strain injuries from early April are healed, and he will begin his rehab assignment with the Advanced-A Tampa Tarpons on Monday.

(A quick note to Tampa-based Yankees fans: most of the rehabbing players seem to spend their recovery time with this team. So you could see your favorite stars for cheaper than Spring Training prices and way closer seats throughout these next few weeks and months, and you don’t have to travel to the Bronx to see them in action.)

Go Yankees!

Game 38: NYY vs. TB — Under the dome’s Friday Night Lights

Tropicana Field is a strange place. It’s the only stadium in MLB to have a roof that isn’t retractable. And because of that, it has weird rules on how a ball hits a certain beam in the dome’s structure is an out/hit/home run.

Of course, there are positives to it. Florida is super hot most of they year, but in the Trop, it’s always 72° F. And when there’s inclement weather, like tonight, there’s never any rain delay, wet fields, or strangely sponsored tarps.

While it stormed outside, the Yankees kicked off their first game of this weekend series against the Rays. Domingo German got the start tonight, throwing 84 pitches in 5 innings, giving up 5 hits, 2 walks, and 3 runs, and struck out 5 Rays’ batters. He kept the Rays scoreless through most of his outing until his last inning, the 5th. A lead-off double scored on a 1-out 2-run home run to get them on the board. And a 2-out solo homer eased the home team into the lead.

Despite a decent showing of Rays’ fans, the majority of tonight’s packed stadium were rooting for the visitors, as usual. And the Yankees were ready to put on a show for their local fans. DJ LeMahieu led-off the game by making it to 1st on a throwing error. Voit walked and Sanchez singled to load up the bases. After a strikeout, a passed ball allowed LeMahieu to hustle home, and Gleyber Torres singled home Voit.

After the Rays tied up the game and then took the lead in the bottom of the 5th, the Yankees only needed the 6th to switch things back in their favor. Sanchez and Frazier hit consecutive singles. After a strikeout, the Rays went to their bullpen for their first reliever.

It didn’t help. Andujar’s single loaded up the bases, and Gio Urshela’s big single scored both Sanchez and Frazier to put the Yankees back in the lead. After another strikeout, the Rays brought in another reliever, whose lone pitch of the game became a grounder to end the inning.

But Urhsela’s RBIs were enough for the Yankees to defend for the rest of the game. Kahnle, Ottavino, Britton, and Chapman each put up a scoreless inning, still allowing the Rays tried a few opportunities to threaten before getting out of the jam, thanks partly to a great defense.

Final score: 4-3 Yankees

Injury updates: Didi Gregorius (elbow) has been in Tampa, trying to come back from his Tommy John surgery last off-season. So when the Yankees came to town, it was only natural for their energetic shortstop to stop in for a visit with his teammates and hang out for the game.

Aaron Hicks (back) has been spending his rehab games with the local minor league Yankees team — Advanced-A Tampa Tarpons. He has three more games scheduled with them before the Yankees will activate him onto the Yankees main roster, which looks to be next week back in the Bronx.

Dellin Betances (shoulder) and James Paxton (knee) both played catch at the Trop before tonight’s game. Betances’ recovery is slow going, progressively working his way to longer and longer tosses to see how his healing is progressing. Paxton, however, is looking good and will hopefully be back after missing just one or two starts.

And for those asking, there is no set timetable on the returns of Aaron Judge (oblique) and Giancarlo Stanton (shoulder). Stanton has resumed hitting and working out with baseball activities. But Judge is not yet ready for that, sticking solely to rehab exercises.

Get well, guys!

Go Yankees!

Game 33: MIN vs. NYY — Soggy shortened Sunday game

It was wet. It was cold. It was rainy. It was just a nasty day in the City from start to finish. And for the brief break between storm fronts, they squeezed in a ball game. Or at least the better part of one, as the fans and players braved the chilly rain for the nearly 3 hours before it was eventually called a bit short.

Domingo German got the start today and had a great outing in this final game of the weekend series against the visiting Twins. He threw 108 pitches into the 7th inning, gave up 4 hits, 3 walks, and just 1 run, and struck out an impressive 7 Minnesota batters. With 2 outs in the 4th, he gave up a single that moved to 2nd on walk and then scored on a single for the Twins’ lone allowed run today.

The Yankees found moments to advance against a former teammate that started today’s game for the Twins. In the 2nd, they loaded the bases with Torres’ single and walks to Gardner and Maybin. DJ LeMahieu’s 2-out single scored both Torres and Gardner, thanks in part to a throwing error. And Urhsela hit a 1-out single in the 4th and then scored on Mike Tauchman’s 2-out 2-run home run into the right field seats to double the Yankees’ score.

After a soggy start to the day, we all were counting down the outs. Once they played through 5 innings, the consensus seemed to be that at least there’s a “complete game” if they called it. When the rain began in the late 6th inning, it just got progressively worse until fans were pretty much standing in a downpour to sing “God Bless America” and “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” in the 7th inning stretch.

Both pitching staff had some issues through those later innings. Kahnle was able to close out the 7th with a 7-pitch strikeout, but Ottavino had trouble with control in the 8th, getting just 2 outs, walking one batter, and hitting another with a pitch. They called on Chapman for a 7-pitch strikeout, but even he had trouble with a really wild pitch in the mix.

The Twins sent in a new reliever for the bottom of the 8th, and again, it was messy. Gleyber Torres benefited by drawing a lead-off walk and then moved all the way to 3rd on a passed ball and wild pitch during Gardner’s at-bat. An initial request was that the mound might be too wet, but that was enough to put the game into rain delay before someone could get really hurt.

After an hour and one minute, there was no abating the weather. It’s just going to rain all night. It was already pushed back from a 1:05 pm start time, which allowed for the game to actually be played at all. They called the game as is.

Final score: 4-1 in 8 innings, Yankees win series 2-1

Next up: Speaking of rain, the Yankees will host a 4-game series against the Mariners, starting tomorrow (Monday) before a quick trip down to face the Rays. They head back home for 2 more series (against the Orioles and Rays) before hitting the road again.

Injury Updates: There’s actually some really good news on this front. It looks like the Yankees may be getting some familiar faces back really soon. Clint Frazier (ankle) played in a rehab game with the AA Trenton Thunder yesterday and could be activated Monday or Tuesday. Aaron Hicks (back) will join the Advanced-A Tampa Tarpons this week for his rehab game and could be finally in the Bronx this season later this week.

Further down the return list, Giancarlo Stanton (shoulder) could resume batting practice this week as part of his progress. Dellin Betances (shoulder) will be assessed and could start throwing Monday, with an aim to be back on the mound next month. And Didi Gregorius (elbow) is actually doing great in his recovery process, inciting an earlier return anticipation of possibly late June rather than later in the summer.

In other words, for all the mess that was the growing list earlier this season, the Yankees are finally stabilizing and recovering their loss earlier than anticipated in some cases. And that’s something worth celebrating.

Go Yankees!

 

Game 8: NYY vs. BAL — A double Judgement Day with some late Red Thunder

Unlike in previous seasons, the Yankees seem to find their swing at Camden Yards. Usually, there’s something about the Baltimore home field that reeks of home field advantage, and for a time during these last two games, that seemed to still linger. But the Yankees somehow pulled it together in the end and found their momentum to swing things in their favor.

JA Happ got the start for the Yankees in the middle game of this opening weekend series, throwing into the 5th inning and mostly keeping the Orioles from doing much tonight. With 2 outs in the 1st, a solo home run got them on the board. But then Happ worked his way through the next 3 innings without another big threat. In the 5th, he gave up a single and a 1-out walk before handing the ball over to Holder for relief.

After an infield fly pop-up out, a single scored Happ’s lead runner, but Holder kept the Orioles from adding any further to their score through the next 4 outs. But then he found trouble in the 7th. The first batter was hit by a pitch then moved to 3rd on a single. So it was on to Adam Ottavino.

A pinch-hitter hit into an unsuccessful fielder’s choice that scored one run. After an out (the first of the inning), a base runner stole 3rd which he used to his advantage when he scored on a sacrifice fly. With no more base runners, Ottavino needed just 1 more out to close out the inning without further damage. After allowing a lead-off walk, he got 2 outs in the 8th before it was Green’s turn.

Green had a bit of a sloppy way to find that final out of the 8th. His first batter was hit by a pitch, and the next batter hit into a fielder’s choice fielding error to load up the bases. The call was originally ruled out at 2nd, but Torres just tagged the base and not the runner. So when the runner came off the bag, Torres was still holding the ball in his glove away from the runner and not on the runner. The Orioles rightly challenged the call, which was overturned quickly, and play proceeded.

A ground ball later, and Green was out of the jam. Chapman earned his second save with an 18-pitch scoreless 9th inning.

The Yankees actually got on the board first with a solid 1-out solo home run up the middle by Aaron Judge. Then with 1 out in the 3rd, Gardner doubled, and Judge again smacked a big homer, a 2-run home run again up the middle. That’s home runs #1 and #2 of 2019 for Judge, by the way.

But after the Orioles tied up the game (twice) and then took the lead, the Yankees started running out of time to shift things back to their favor. They even got several opportunities once again, but they couldn’t seem find a way to score. Then in the 8th, with 2 outs and a new reliever, Torres walked and moved to 3rd on LeMahieu’s single. But it was Clint “Red Thunder” Frazier for the win, with a 3-run home run, putting the Yankees back in the lead.

Final score: 6-4 Yankees

Roster moves: Before tonight’s game, the Yankees optioned Thairo Estrada back to AAA Scranton and signed infielder Gio Urshela to a major league contract. To make room for him on the roster, they moved Didi Gregorius to the 60-day injured list. Urshela, as you might remember, was a stand-out in Spring Training both defensively and at the bat. Add in his veteran experience, he is the logical choice for long-term coverage while the Yankees tread lightly with the injured Andujar.

Go Yankees!

Off-season bits: January edition

Happy 2019! It’s only 30 days until pitchers and catcher report to the Tampa minor league complex and officially kick off Spring Training and the 2019 baseball season. There hasn’t really be a lot of splashy signings by the Yankees this off-season, and it looks like the two biggest free agents will be signing elsewhere. But there’s still quite a bit of time before Spring Training, and even more time before the regular season to finalize that perfect 25-man roster.

Last month, CC Sabathia’s off-season took a bit of a detour. He was supposed to travel around England on a press tour for the upcoming Yankees-Red Sox series in the UK this summer, but instead found himself on the operating table getting a stent put in his heart. After experiencing some discomfort during his exercise routine, he was smart enough to listen to his body and see a doctor, who found a 90% blocked artery and scheduled an emergency angioplasty on December 11.

Just last week, he was cleared to resume baseball activities and is on track to report for camp next month with the other pitchers and catchers. Doctors have pronounced him in excellent condition, including for the long-term (much to the relief of his wife and family). Sabathia himself said he felt “like a brand new person“. This procedure is just further support for Sabathia’s recent lifestyle changes — abstaining from alcohol and altering his diet and nutrition intake, something he hopes can carry him through the rest of his life, deterring any future issues with his genetic predisposition for heart disease.

Meanwhile, the Yankees haven’t made any big name signings, but they have secured three decently recognizable names to their major league roster. To provide back-up for Didi Gregorius while he recovers from Tommy John surgery, the Yankees signed shortstop Troy Tulowitzki for a year.

Formerly with the Rockies and Blue Jays and winner of two Gold Gloves and two Silver Sluggers, the five-time All-Star is now 34 and has been inactive for the last 18 months due to a plague of injuries, but was released by the Blue Jays despite owing him a hefty salary for the next two seasons. Tulowitzki has worn #2 in honor of his childhood baseball hero Derek Jeter for his entire MLB career, so it will be interesting to find out what number he’ll don as Jeter’s famous number was retired nearly three year ago.

They also signed free agent infielder DJ LeMathieu to a 2-year contract. LeMathieu has spent all 8 of his MLB seasons with the Rockies at 2nd base and will join his former teammate on the Yankees roster. Both LeMathieu and Tulowitzki could serve as rather active bench players through the season as part of the now full infield.

And the Yankees made the biggest impact by re-signing reliever Zach Britton to a new 3-year contract (potentially 4 if options are exercised), solidifying his presence in the already stellar bullpen with fellow closing relievers like Betances and Chapman.

To make room for the two new faces, the Yankees designated reliever AJ Cole and minor league infielder Hanser Alberto for assignment. Both were picked up quickly by the Indians and Orioles, respectively.

At the end of last year, the Yankees offered all arbitration-eligible players a 1-year deal to close out their contract agreements before the players have the potential to become free agents. Eight players agreed to the Yankees’ terms — Betances, Bird, Gray, Gregorius, Hicks, Kahnle, Paxton and Romine. The remaining player, Luis Severino, is still in negotiations as of this weekend, which can continue until a hearing is held where an arbitrator makes a decision how much a team must pay a player.

And for those of you that pay attention to other sports, you might know that as of yesterday, there are only four teams left in the NFL playoffs. Next weekend will eliminate two more so that the winners of those two games will end up playing in the Superbowl next month. But none of those teams are the Seahawks. And despite playing in the Pro-Bowl (the NFL’s equivalent of the All-Star Game), the current most famous NFL-MLB player, Seattle’s star quarterback Russell Wilson, is preparing for his stint at Spring Training again. He made a big splash with the fans last year with his single at-bat (and strikeout) and is set for six days in camp with hopefully a better game performance.

Next month, Miguel Andujar, Didi Gregorius, and Aaron Boone will bring their star power to the annual Thurmon Munson Awards dinner. The three are being recognized for their philanthropy and active community involvement, in the spirit of the dinner’s namesake. Former Yankee Darryl Strawberry will also be on hand to present an award, and other sports stars and executives are being honored for their life of giving.

And finally, Yankees icon Mel Stottlemyre lost his battle with bone marrow cancer yesterday. The former pitching coach helped guide the 1986 Mets to their championship before being a critical part of the last Yankees dynasty, coaching legends like Pettitte and Rivera, spending a decade with each team.

Initially diagnosed in 2000, the cancer went into remission following intensive treatments before returning in 2011. The Yankees eventually honored him in a surprise presentation with a plaque in Monument Park in 2015 on Old Timers’ Day, surrounded by fellow legends. Our hearts go out to all of his loved ones, especially his wife Jean and their sons Todd and Mel.

Go Yankees!

NLCS 5: MIL vs. LAD, ALCS 4: BOS vs. HOU — “The show must go on”, an apt motto for this dramatic postseason

“Emotion, excitement, farce, melodrama, scene, spectacle, tension, tragedy, crisis, histrionics, theatrics, turmoil in life” — all synonyms for “drama” that would still fit whatever is going on this postseason, especially in the ALCS. It also kind of feels like the beginnings of a new rivalry between the Red Sox and Astros. But the NLCS is certainly seeing its share of the dramatics too.

NLCS: Brewers at Dodgers
The Brewers’ starter only threw to one batter this afternoon (just 5 pitches) before being pulled from the game. They later announced he will actually start the next game (Game 6), so they didn’t want to exhaust him today. So their first reliever ended up throwing into the 6th inning, more of a starter than the starter, with 70 pitches and 8 strikeouts. But none of that or the supporting relievers seemed to stop the Dodgers offense today.

Actually, they were held off until the 5th inning when the lead-off batter singled and ended up at 2nd on a throwing error. He then stole 3rd and scored on a 1-out single. And a lead-off single in the 6th moved to 2nd on a hit-by-pitch and then scored on a 1-out single. That was the end of the pseudo-starter’s outing, and his new reliever gave up a 2-out single that scored one more run but also got the other runner out trying to go to 3rd in a great defensive play. In the 7th, with 1 out, a walk and double put runners in scoring position. The first runner scored on a single, the next on a ground out.

And the Dodgers sent in one of their best starters, who went a full 7 innings and only gave up 3 hits and 2 walks, striking out 9 Milwaukee batters. He only gave up 1 run to the Brewers under his tenure. In the 3rd, a 1-out single moved to 2nd on a walk and then scored on a double. A 2-out walk loaded up the bases but Kershaw got out of that jam. It wasn’t until the 9th that the Brewers got another offensive shot. With 2 outs and the 2nd reliever of the inning, a batter doubled, moved to 3rd on defensive indifference, and then scored on a pinch-hit double. It wasn’t enough.

Final score: 5-2 Dodgers, Dodgers lead series 3-2

ALCS: Red Sox at Astros
Meanwhile, in Houston, things are getting ugly. Fast. The teams went back-and-forth in offensive strength, no thanks to some pretty heated debates over some questionable calls — like a probable home run call that was ruled (and later somehow “upheld” but notably not “confirmed”) as “fan interference”. It immediately drew comparisons to the whole Jeffrey Maier incident from the 1996 ALCS, though it was much closer to other potential fan incidents.

Beyond that, each team pretty much let in to each team’s pitchers to advance their cause. In the 1st, the Red Sox’s lead-off batter was hit by a pitch, then he and a 1-out walk moved into scoring position on a wild pitch. They both scored on a single. The Astros got one of those runs back in the 2nd when a lead-off double scored on an RBI single.

The Red Sox’s lead-off double ended up scoring on a double to take back their run in the 3rd. But the Astros came back in the bottom of that inning with a lead-off solo home run and a double that later scored on a 2-out single to tie up the game. A 1-out solo home run put the Astros in the lead for the first time tonight. But the Red Sox tied it up again in the 5th with a 1-out double scoring on a 2-out single.

The Astros pushed on ahead in the bottom of the 5th when their 1-out single moved to 2nd on a wild pitch and then scored on a 2-out single. The visitors flipped the story again in the 6th. With 2 outs, they got a double that scored as part of a big 2-run home run. Then the Red Sox kept going. In the 7th, they loaded up the bases with 2 outs before the Astros’ reliever walked in a run. And in a similar story of the night, a 1-out single in the 8th moved to 2nd on a wild pitch and then scored on a 2-out single.

The home team got one more chance to make an impact in the bottom of the 8th. A lead-off single was tagged out trying to make it a double. Then a hit-by-pitch and double moved runners to scoring position. A ground out scored the lead runner, but a strikeout ended the Astros chance at a comeback.

Final score: 8-6 Red Sox, Red Sox lead series 3-1

In Yankee Universe news: Didi Gregorius had his surgery on his partially torn UCL, also known as Tommy John surgery. It went “as expected”, and if his recovery progresses “as expected”, Gregorius should be back in pinstripes around the All-Star Break, as early as June, as late as August.

Of course, this has fueled rumors about potential replacements. However, I’m guessing that because Gregorius is scheduled to comeback next season that they might see how in-house talent progresses in Spring Training before going fishing for a replacement. I mean, they already have Walker, Wade, Torreyes, Hechavarria, Torres, and Andujar (as well as Voit and Bird at 1st) on the roster. It’s not like they’re hurting for talented infielders.

And as Yankee baseball season is over, it seems the Yankees themselves have turned to being fans of other sports. Aaron Judge (and friends) were court side for Knicks’ home opener (and eventual victory) at Madison Square Garden. A crowd scan found his face on the big screen, much to the glee of other fellow New Yorkers. Judge was also the answer to a clue on Jeopardy! two nights ago. In other words, the season may be over, but the Yankees aren’t exactly “out of sight, out of mind”.

Go Yankees!

NLCS 1: LAD vs. MIL — Early stumbles make a hard come back

After a few non-baseball days, the next series of games began tonight to determine which final two teams would advance to the coming World Series. In the National League, the Dodgers faced off against the Brewers and certainly stumbled their way through the game.

The Dodgers sent their best pitcher Kershaw to the mound to kick off this series, and it wasn’t a great outcome because his defense wasn’t playing at the level they were at the previous series. The Brewers pieced together their bullpen for a pitching staff tonight and had much better luck until the end when their holes started showing.

The Dodgers got on the board first, with a lead-off solo home run in the 2nd by the recently acquired star Machado. But the Brewers tied up the game with their own lead-off homer in the 3rd. Then they loaded the bases with a single, a walk, and a catcher’s interference before a sacrifice fly and missed catch error scored a run.

In the 4th, the Dodgers gave up a walk and single that put runners on the corners due in part to another missed catch error. A single scored both those runners to double the Brewers’ score. That runner then stole 2nd, which was marked as safe after an overturned challenge, and then scored on a 2-out single. And a lead-off solo home run in the 7th added the insurance run the Brewers ended up needing.

So, down by 5 runs, the Dodgers needed some power to even attempt a comeback in the 8th. A lead-off single was forced out on a grounder, then a new reliever gave up a single and a 2-out walk to load the bases. With another new reliever, a single scored the first two runners and another single scored the next one to edge the Dodgers closer. Down to their last out in the 9th, the Dodgers worked a walk that scored on an RBI triple before a strikeout ended the Dodgers rally just short of a win or possible tie.

Final score: 6-5 Brewers, Brewers lead series 1-0

And in Yankee Universe news: now that their season is over, the Yankee news is filled with conversations about potential off-season trades, free agent signings and re-signings, and injuries and surgeries. A few popular veterans are technically up for free agency or a contract buy-out option this off-season like Gardner, Happ, Britton, McCutchen, Robertson, and Sabathia, all of whom had a major impact in the Yankees’ drive to the postseason. So it will be interesting to see which players will be in pinstripes and which will be in opposing uniforms next season.

Meanwhile, the Yankees announced that CC Sabathia had surgery today to clean-up his problematic knee. It’s the same surgery he had last year before the season, and it seemed to work for him, having quite the successful season. Sabathia has made it clear he wants one more season, specifically with the Yankees as he wants to go to London with the team, and (more importantly) he wants another victory parade.

And in rather surprising news, it seems that Didi Gregorius partially torn his UCL in one of the first 2 ALDS games at Fenway and then played the rest of the series with that injury without telling anyone. It certainly explains some lackluster (and very un-Didi-like) defense in a few of the games. He will undergo Tommy John surgery to repair the injured elbow ligament.

Now, because he’s not a pitcher, the recovery time is shorter, which means Spring and early games of 2019 are out. But once he has the surgery, they can set a more definite timeline. Realistically, he will rejoin the team sometime before the All-Star Break. But I think everyone would rather have a fully recovered, healthy Gregorius than a hurting one.

Go Yankees!